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The Natives Are Restless: Misconceptions Regarding “The Kids

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Ivan Lerner

on 30 September 2014

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Transcript of The Natives Are Restless: Misconceptions Regarding “The Kids

The Natives Are Restless: Misconceptions Regarding “The Kids” and Their Multimodal Abilities
Readings included:
Diana George, “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing”

danah boyd, from It’s Complicated, Chapter 7, “Literacy: Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?”

Mary Hocks, “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments”

Is it just simple inertia (changing an entrenched bureaucratic system is akin to turning around an ocean liner, after all); or is it due to people who don’t want the status quo challenged or changed?
Both danah boyd & Diana George are advocates for the students, and both ask that preconceived notions about youths and their abilities be dropped.
Educators who wish to increase students’ abilities in the digital fields seem to keep running into interference and disapproval from already-established educational systems and their supervisors.
Don’t think the kids know everything, but have no moral compass, so you’ll have a horde of evil geniuses running around…

But don’t go too far into the other direction, and believe the students and their efforts are not creative—that they don’t know what they are doing; they will probably do the unexpected: “Our students have a much richer imagination for what we might accomplish with the visual than our journals have yet to address.” (George; p212)

George quotes William Costanzo: “It now appears that the act of writing involves more visual thinking than we recognize in traditional composition classes.” (p222)

Meanwhile, boyd points out, giving kids all this “power” (that they don’t really have) means that “grown-ups” are absolved from trying to learn themselves (becoming familiar with the digital world) and influence their kids. By absolving themselves, adults don’t have to teach about critical engagement with the web—not only will youth not become media literate, but neither will adults.
She declares we must answer for ourselves, “
What is a visual argument?

And then use it with the students.

That New York teen girl (boyd, p194) can “move seamlessly” between different platforms of social media (gossip and chitter-chatter is the new opiate of the masses?), but finding real information makes the browser become “
time consuming and frustrating
Don’t overestimate/Don’t underestimate—
boyd requests that we stop calling the students “natives;” that referring to teens/youth/students as “digital natives” is “far from being useful” (boyd; p176)

boyd is too polite to point out that referring to anyone as a native also brings to mind “savages” or even, especially when teens are in the mix,
The Lord of the Flies
. “The suggestion that many take…is that adults should fear children’s supposedly natural-born knowledge” (boyd; p178)
And things we fear, we try and control.
“Is the goal to celebrate youth savvy or to destroy their practices?” boyd asks (p179).

George makes a strong case for pedagogists to break free of “old” ideas of teaching and learning, and to encourage students to be producers of “Design” (literary acquisition).
Producing literary acquisition—developing a way to help yourself understand the topic and perhaps even teach it to someone else.

For some reason, these people would rather spend the time and effort to restrict and control the youth (their own kids, for crying out loud!) than coexisting.
The popularity of online “crafting” game Minecraft with children and their parents was a hopeful sign that the native/immigrant wall was being dismantled.
Writes Michael Agger in September 18, 2014 issue of
The New Yorker
, “The Minecraft Parent”:
“At its best, the game is not unlike being in the woods with your best friends. Parents also join in. The Internet is full of testimonials of parents playing with their kids, of children reading their first word in Minecraft, and other milestones usually performed in the analog world....the foundational experience is wholesome—shredded wheat for the mind.”

But since Minecraft was bought by mega-conglomerate Microsoft for $2.5 billion, who knows what will happen to it….
boyd knows that the kids are not all-knowing, and that the Web is not a neutral place. To navigate it properly and thoughtfully,
“Youth must become media literate.” (p181)
“Youth must become media literate.” (p181)
“Youth must become media literate.” (p181)
“Youth must become media literate.” (p181)
“Youth must become media literate.” (p181)
Media literacy would mean becoming producers of online media/new writing—multitalented, multiple disciplined producers: Multiliteracies!
But also being able to observe, step back and critique the torrent of information available.
I believe this goes hand-in-hand with George’s concept of “Visual Arguments”
Starting with the example of her students creating visual interpretations/editorials/additions— “Visual Arguments”—to their reading about the Congo’s exploitation.
George: “The students in these classes were clearly very serious about the arguments they were making. They were also quite serious about how a visual argument should be evaluated…” and they use “the same criteria” used in assessing opinions/etc. that were written down: “Does the visual make an argument? How well does the visual communicate that argument? Is the argument relevant to the course…? Is it interesting? Is it clear or focused?” (p227)
[A sentiment echoed by Mary Hocks: “In terms of visual rhetoric, students need to learn the ‘distanced’ process of how to critique the saturated visual and technological landscape that surrounds them as something structured and written in a set of deliberate rhetorical moves.” (p645)]

George concludes with:
“For students who have
grown up in a
technology-saturated and
an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them.” (p228)
Hocks brings this up as well: “An individual author typically operates with multiple social and cultural contexts.” (p632)
“When designing digital documents and also seeing how people use and interpret them, our students can then see themselves as active producers of knowledge in their discipline.” (p652)

Very similar to the New London Group’s Available Designs/Designing/The Redesigned, was Hocks’ Audience Stance/Transparency/Hybridity—although Hocks’ trio seem more concerned with the consumer and his attitudes to visual rhetorics, while the New London Group seemed to be guiding the producer of such work.
The elephant in the room: Do the Powers That Be really want students to be media literate?

Who benefits? Looking beyond pedagogy and towards the socio-political and economic,
there’s a lot of top-down action going on.

“Teachers continue to prefer familiar, formally recognized sources” (boyd; p187)—
I believe these “old school” sources are also easier to control (Look what the right wingers in Colorado tried to do with their textbooks!)
Teachers might prefer the “familiar,” but
“There are politics to algorithms.” (boyd, p185)
The Powers That Be want stupid consumers: easily amused (and easily confused) slack-jawed troglodytes—

So in the interests of providing new data for your search engines, and to provide a little levity—some breathing room as it were—
here’s Alice Cooper performing his big hit, “School’s Out”—but in the spirit of quasi-remixing, The Coop is performing with The Muppets.

Which is why filters turn your search engine into an echo chamber (boyd, p.186), telling you what you want to hear—narrowing your vistas, reducing the information to your (once potentially open) mind.
I believe
The Powers That Be
considers a segment of the population as surplus—so as “technology increasingly play[s] an important role in society” (boyd, p198), it’s to the Controllers’ benefit to keep technology out of the hands of certain people.
Meanwhile, the implication that “digital natives” don’t need our help will mean that the children of the well-off will continue to train themselves with the tools they have access to (can afford), while the poor get nothing (boyd; p195)
That said, there is a low-tech, yet multimodal tool that is getting a reprieve from the tawdry history imposed on it by snobs….
As someone who grew up on comic books, the visual/verbal have always gone somewhat hand-in-hand for me—and comic books are coming back as teaching aides, according to a recent article in
The Atlantic

“Comics bring a one-two punch with images and text working together,” [my emphasis] said one interviewee.
Jonathan Hennessey, the author of
The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
, is quoted in
The Atlantic
while showing an illustration regarding a Neolithic civilization:
“If you look at the image, imagine how much text would be required to establish what you see here… The human eye processes images something like 60,000 times faster than it processes text. This isn’t to say that text has no place, but it’s saying that images are very powerful, and if we use them,
they could be
powerful teaching tools
Before we conclude, I must say a mondo-monstro big thanks to all the sites I borrowed images from!
Something fun to end with: I’m including this song for a bit of fun: the natives are restless because they’re tired of being called natives—???
Full transcript